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The US Concerts

Andrea Centazzo

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Album Review

In addition to his skills as a performer and organizer, Italian percussionist Andrea Centazzo has had a remarkably consistent ability to identify extraordinary performers, often before their reputations ripened. This instant recording is a sort of smorgasbord, with each track featuring a different group, and four tracks are released for the first time. Recorded over a period of more than seven years and including several combinations of players, most of whom were well-known or later became so for their quality musicianship, the percussionist presents and introduces some of the leading, if lesser-known at the time, practitioners of free improvisation from the late '70s through the mid-'80s. Yet, despite the all-star quality of the cast and an abundance of good — and sometimes great — improvisation, there is a lingering feeling that, taken as a whole, these tracks come up a bit short, at least compared to some of the highly focused disks in this series of recordings that are part of the magnificent box set known as Ictus Records' 30th Anniversary Collection. High expectations aside, there is a sense, at least at first, that the instant selections are quilted together as bits and pieces that simply had to be released for their value both historically and intrinsically. To be fair, some of the cuts, such as "Trio West #1" and "Trio West #2," each featuring John Carter, contain some extraordinary blowing, and, in fact, each track on the album has something substantial to offer.

The "Trio West" couplet would whet anyone's appetite from the get-go, as Centazzo and Carter are joined by West Coast lion Vinny Golia, who was to develop his musical and mentoring skills to considerable heights in succeeding decades. While it is difficult to tell the two reeds apart, it appears that Carter, who at the time was the far more experienced reed player, is overwhelmingly dominant, blowing with incredible flexibility and technical skill. Centazzo overwhelms cellist Tom Cora on "Live in Woodstock," as the percussionist shows his mettle in the opening moments, though the piece ultimately lacks cohesiveness. On "NY Tapes #1," Centazzo is clearly inspired by the deliberate, emotional musings of Japanese trumpeter Toshinori Kondo, with positive results from both players. A thrilling, expressive player who knows no bounds, Jack Wright impresses mightily on "No Wall," a radical duo with Centazzo in which the percussionist holds his own with Wright's wild side, although, true to form, there is a touch of excessiveness from the saxophonist. LaDonna Smith is a name that should be better known, and even if the couple of tracks on which she appears — "McClung #1" and "McClung #2" — are not her best work on disc, they are good introductions to her unusual style practiced through her violin and speaking voice. The album also introduces the listener to the braying electric guitars of Davey Williams and Eugene Chadbourne, the latter of whom is particularly impressive on "NY Tapes #2," as he lets loose in his inimitable style. The final selection is a duo between the under-recorded Greg Goodman and Centazzo, and the pianist displays some impressive chops, raising questions as to why he never emerged as a more influential player in later years.

Biography

Genre: Jazz

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Italy's top orchestral percussionist, Andrea Centazzo has composed and performed lyric operas, orchestral symphonies, and percussion solos. Since 1983, Centazzo's attention has been focused on multimedia productions incorporating traditional and electronic instruments and video tape. Centazzo has been praised for his ability to "synthesize Oriental percussive vibration with timbal understanding of contemporary music and the soul of jazz and rock." Centazzo first attracted attention as a sideman for...
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The US Concerts, Andrea Centazzo
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